It was a beautiful Spring morning in Maine.
Aaron and Holly sat on the same bench, mere inches apart, and stared out at the river. It was an amazing shade of blue today, and really warranted their full attention.
Neither of them wore a mask.
Holly took a sip of her coffee, and then looked over at her best friend.
“You’re unusually quiet,” she remarked.
Aaron shrugged, then placed his bottle of Snapple between them on the bench as if drawing the line that she should not cross.
“Still getting used to this whole being outside without a mask thing,” he confessed.
“If only I’d known years ago that this was the way to get you to shut up,” she quipped.
He did not react to the comment in anyway. Instead, he just stared out at the river like it was much more interesting than the beautiful woman seated to his right.
“Gone on any dates lately?” she persisted because she refused to sit there in silence.
Aaron turned and gave her a look that conveyed he believed his best friend to be insane.
“What makes you think I’m in any hurry to meet up with strangers while there’s still a pandemic raging?” he demanded.
“You’ve been vaccinated,” she reminded him. “You need to start living your life again. Dating is one way to do that.”
Aaron snatched his Snapple off the bench, popped the top, and took a long sip.
“Why is that so important to you?” he asked.
“Because I want my life to be normal again,” Holly replied without hesitation. “And my life can’t be normal if my best friend is still too afraid to come out of the house and live. So I need you to get over your pandemic fears, and just go back to having all the phobias and anxieties you had before we ever heard about the Coronavirus.”
“You’re in serious trouble, Holly, if I’m your touchstone for normalcy,” he teased.
Holly giggled and punched him playfully in the shoulder.
“You’re actually an excellent barometer,” she explained. “You’re a creature of habit, so if you’re acting weird, then I know all is well in the world. However, if you’re acting super introverty…”
“Not a word,” he cut her off.
She held up a finger to warn him not to cut her off.
“Writers aren’t the only ones allowed to make up words,” she growled. “It’s important that you face your fears, stick your head out of your shell, and go back to your normal, yet weird life.”
“I suppose this is some bizarre way of showing that you care about me,” he observed and then took another sip of Snapple.
“You could say that,” she confirmed. “Plus, I don’t like your being alone. I want you to meet someone who can make you happy and won’t allow you to wall yourself off from the world.”
“How does one even meet someone post-pandemic?” he wondered. “Do I go on a dating show? Bachelorette #1, it says here that you refused to wear a mask because you think the Coronavirus is a hoax, and you believe that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. So I guess my question to you is: Where were you on January 6th?”
Holly laughed out loud.
“I guess you do need to ask a few more background questions these days,” she conceded.
Aaron finally smiled.
“If it will make you happy, I’ll think about going on a date,” he promised.
Holly smiled and took a long sip of her coffee so that Aaron wouldn’t recognize that there was some disappointment in that smile…